Generation 40s – 四十世代

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How China-US rivalry is hastening the marginalisation of Taiwan

CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-05-09

Tian Feilong says America’s use of Taiwan as a bargaining chip in its tussle with China is upsetting the status quo of cross-strait relations. With the DPP government in Taiwan also becoming more provocative, Beijing is being forced to respond

Taiwan received a special “gift” on Labour Day this year – the severance of its diplomatic relationship with the Dominican Republic. This was a blow to the Democratic Progressive Party-led government.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the island faces severe challenges both at home and abroad. Just days earlier, anger over a proposal for pension reform for military veterans led protesters to storm the parliamentary building, recalling the Sunflower Movement of 2014, in which students occupied the Legislative Yuan. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education’s decision not to approve the appointment of National Taiwan University president-elect Kuan Chung-ming led to an outcry of interference in academic freedom.

Herein lies the irony in Taiwan’s democratic development. The DPP, which rose to power as a champion of democracy, is now resorting to institutional violence to keep control and hurting the core values of Taiwanese democracy. The fact is that, although the United States described Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy” in its Taiwan Travel Act, which was signed into law last month, this leading light has dimmed and the island appears trapped by its internal and external problems.

No doubt Taiwan’s fascination with the myth of independence plays a role in its predicament, but the main reason is the changing global order inspired by the rivalry between China and the US.

Any serious discussion about Taiwan must be framed by the larger context of China-US relations.

The US approach is shaped by its two contradictory policies on China. The first is its “one China” policy, the result of three Sino-US joint communiqués and in place since president Richard Nixon’s time. The second is America’s special relationship with Taiwan, centred on its 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and a basis for its geopolitical strategy to check and contain China’s rise.

In foreign policy circles in the US, the doves favour engagement with Beijing while the hawks lean towards containment.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. Over the past 40 years, US policy has tended towards engagement, on the belief that a good relationship with China would not only enable Chinese integration into the Western democratic system, but also open up the lucrative Chinese market to American business.

However, China’s development since the 18th Communist Party congress in 2012 has punctured the optimism of the China doves, who noted Beijing’s efforts to consolidate political authority at home and seize greater control of its own growth by building a market network through the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

This shift in direction was given political and legal legitimacy at the 19th party congress last year and through the constitutional revision this year. China has entered a “new era” founded on “Xi Jinping Thought”, the president’s political theory.

The new era has two main goals. One is to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, where unifying with Taiwan is a must. The other is to build a “community of common destiny” that rivals and transcends the US-led global order. The bottom line is, China has not become a democracy as the US had wished. It has followed its own path by developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, for which the party’s leadership is key.

The US is increasingly worried that China’s growing clout could evolve into animosity and aggression. The worry that the two powers are locked in a “Thucydides Trap” has encouraged the rise of the China hawks. Late last year, the US named China a key rival and a revisionist power in its new national security strategy. This year, the Taiwan Travel Act was introduced and President Donald Trump is acting on his threat to launch a trade war with China.

Against this backdrop of China-US rivalry, Taiwan has become an important part of the US strategy.

On Taipei’s part, attention from the US is welcome at a time when the island is coming under mounting pressure from Beijing. Since the DPP returned to power in the 2016 elections, the island has become more active in its push for independence. The DPP government has also abandoned the “1992 consensus”, a cornerstone of cross-strait peace.

The Taiwanese may see the Taiwan Travel Act – which encourages high-level exchanges between US and Taiwanese government officials – as a security guarantee. But it is only a bargaining chip the US uses in its negotiations with China.  Just as Syria is being used as a fulcrum for the US to confront Russia in the Middle East, North Korea and Taiwan are being used by the US as a fulcrum to confront China.

The Taiwan issue is a “leftover problem” that originated in China’s civil war, and Beijing regards Taiwan as a core interest that it will never give up. However, for the reasons outlined above, political reconciliation between the two sides, and ultimately reunification, has become increasingly unlikely. And the provocative behaviour of the independence-leaning DPP will only increase the possibility that China would take control of Taiwan by force.

With these question marks hanging over Taiwan’s security, foreign investors are likely to stay away while local investors find greener pastures elsewhere. This is the inescapable larger trend. Yet, the DPP has failed to appreciate that the 1992 consensus is a prerequisite for the sustainable development of the Taiwanese economy.

Both the 1992 consensus and the “one China” policy are important. The 1992 consensus must remain valid for the US to stop the mainland from unilaterally resolving the Taiwan issue, and the “one China” principle must be in force for it to rein in Taiwan’s radical independence forces.

The China hawks in the US blame the failure of the country’s China policy on its misunderstanding of Chinese intent. But in fact, the fault lies in the DPP’s abandonment of the 1992 consensus and moves towards independence, as well as the US enactment of the Taiwan Travel Act, which gave Taiwan unrealistic expectations of its political future.

Thus, the US and Taiwan have jointly upset the status quo that has existed for decades, and are forcing Beijing to seriously consider taking control of Taiwan by force, under the provisions of its Anti-Secession Law.

By aligning itself with the US, the DPP government in Taiwan has turned its back on being part of the Chinese nation. It could be called a separatist regime. In short, the DPP’s decision to stand against the people on both sides of the strait will only hasten Taiwan’s marginalisation, weakening the economic strength, geopolitical clout and global position of this so-called “beacon of democracy in Asia”.

Tian Feilong is an associate professor at Beihang University’s Law School in Beijing

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For all its power, China can’t sever Taiwan’s links to the rest of the world

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-05-04

Michal Thim says the poaching of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies may seem a symbolic victory for Beijing, but it will do little to dent the island’s relationships with its unofficial allies

First it was Sao Tome and Principe, then Panama and now the Dominican Republic. These three countries have one thing in common: all have switched recognition from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China following the 2016 electoral victory of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan. The Dominican Republic made its move on May 1 and became the most recent of Taiwan’s erstwhile “diplomatic allies” to do so.

But calling countries that recognise Taiwan “allies” doesn’t really reflect the true meaning of the term, considering that some have been quite eager to initiate the change. The Dominican Republic mulled such a move as early as 2013, for example.

Though “diplomatic ally” is a misnomer, it is a term rooted in the struggle between Beijing and Taipei.

Since Taiwan’s democratisation in the 1990s and China’s rise to the status of global power, the old dispute over the legitimacy to rule all of China has been substantially transformed. Nowadays, Taiwan has neither the means nor the political will to continue the so-called “chequebook diplomacy” to prevent its allies switching to Beijing’s side. And it no longer claims to be the legitimate government of what constitutes the People’s Republic of China.

In the past, losing allies was a sensitive topic in Taiwan, and had a considerable psychological impact. However, as diplomatic recognition for Taiwan has gradually been reduced to a handful of smaller countries, the relative importance of those relationships has decreased. The Taiwanese public has also grown increasingly cynical and started to question whether the funds set aside to ensure this recognition was money well spent.

Beijing’s purpose in poaching Taipei’s allies is not a mystery. Post 2016, it is both a punishment for the refusal of Tsai Ing-wen’s administration to state that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China, and a form of psychological pressure aimed at Taiwanese and the international audience, including international media.

Beijing’s endgame is well known: absorption of what is considered a “lost territory” into the People’s Republic, no matter how forcefully Taiwan’s populace is opposed to it. Going after Taipei’s diplomatic recognition seems logical. The example of the Dominican Republic shows that Beijing does not even have to try too hard.

The Dominican Republic will not be the last “diplomatic ally” to be poached. The Vatican’s possible switch had been considered a done deal earlier this year, and still might materialise in 2018. Even if negotiations prove too complicated, other countries that still recognises the Republic of China might need considerably less convincing.

Psychological pressure is without doubt a factor in Beijing’s actions, but as Taiwanese grow accustomed to decreasing recognition for Taipei, they have also become more resilient. The loss of recognition by South Korea and Singapore in the early 1990s was a blow; the same move by the Dominican Republic in 2018 is little more than a nuisance.

Granted, Beijing may see value in removing diplomatic recognition for Taipei even without achieving any concessions from Taiwan. The continuous existence of the Republic of China is an obstacle to achieving the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. However, what would happen if, one by one, all of Taipei’s “diplomatic allies” move over to Beijing’s side? What does Beijing think it could achieve?

The idea that such a move would restrict Taipei’s freedom of action internationally rests on the faulty assumption that its “diplomatic allies” are the lifeline connecting the island to the outside world. Instead, Taiwan maintains extensive global engagement, including significant relationships with the United States, Europe and Japan. Its relationship with Japan is especially important, if underappreciated, and Tokyo understands that Taiwan’s security is of the utmost importance to Japan.

Taking away Panama or the Dominican Republic has only a marginal impact on the nature of Taiwan’s unofficial relationships. Forcing Japan to turn against Taiwan is something that would hurt Taipei. However, for all the power that Beijing has accumulated and the energy it commits to the task of Taiwan’s international marginalisation, Japan is firmly out of its reach.

Objectively speaking, with no “diplomatic allies” left, the Republic of China would have lost any semblance of external recognition. However, that would not necessarily undermine its claim to statehood: external recognition is not a prerequisite for statehood, as defined by the Montevideo Convention of 1933. Having a territory, a population, and a political authority is.

The Republic of China would still be a sovereign state even with no diplomatic recognition. However, Beijing understands that the symbolism of stripping Taipei of diplomatic recognition matters more than the objective reality of international law.

The trouble with such an approach is that, by the time it happens, there will be no one in Taiwan who would care. Taiwan has been dealing with disappearing diplomatic support long enough to be able to secure other ways and means of external engagement. Countries that maintain close unofficial relations with Taiwan are not going to change their course based on the recent and future derecognitions.

Moreover, the resources that Taipei allocated to preserve ties with Panama or the Dominican Republic could and should be used to boost public diplomacy outreach that would bypass old-fashioned diplomatic ways.

Beijing may think that, by removing Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition, it is killing Taipei’s will to resist its demands. Instead, its attempt to gradually eliminate Taipei from the international arena will only fuel indifference in Taiwan and prompt unofficial allies to find other ways to secure Taiwan’s standing.

Michal Thim is a Taiwan analyst at the Association for International Affairs (Czech Republic) and a fellow of the Metropolitan Society for International Affairs (US)


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別矣,雲加!

明報
筆陣
2018-04-25
蔡子強

很多年前,阿仙奴作客完曼聯,費格遜暗示對方小家,不接受他的邀請到其辦公室喝一杯。好個雲加,立即「串嘴」回應:「請恕我還是比較喜歡紅酒,而不多曉得欣賞威士忌。」不錯,雲加在我心目中永遠像紅酒般醇美和優雅。

上周五,英超最後一位教父級名帥——阿仙奴領隊雲加——宣布季後離隊。

近年阿仙奴成了「沒落豪門」

與另外一位教父級名帥、曼聯領隊「費爵爺」費格遜於5年前在曼聯球迷依依不捨聲下榮休不同,今天雲加卻是在過去幾年阿仙奴球迷的不滿聲音下黯然離隊。

阿仙奴近年表現只可以用4隻字——「沒落豪門」——來形容。在1990年代中到新世紀初年,阿仙奴在雲加帶領下曾有過該球會史上最光輝燦爛的歲月,不單止三奪英超錦標,更在2003/04賽季以全季不敗成績奪冠,成了英超成立以來第一支也是至今唯一一支能夠不敗奪冠的球隊。在那10年,雲加與費格遜在英超可說是「一時瑜亮」。但在2003/04球季俄羅斯石油大亨阿巴莫域治與其巨額資金入主車路士,並旋即請來另一名帥摩連奴之後,一切都變了。英超從此進入一個新時代,形勢急轉直下,阿仙奴從此被其他強隊甩開,進入一個漫長低迷時期。

自從在2003/04球季拿到英超冠軍後,阿仙奴已14年來沒有拿過什麼重要錦標,頂多只是足總盃。阿仙奴曾於2005/06球季晉身歐聯決賽(以1:2輸了給巴塞),但最近卻連續7個球季在歐聯16強階段出局,上季更是20年來首次在英超跌出前四,連今季歐聯資格都喪失掉。現時阿仙奴在聯賽只是排第六,球迷對阿仙奴及雲加的表現可說是怨氣冲天。

昔日阿仙奴曾經是「library」

不過這位今天備受千夫所指的領隊,昔日卻曾萬千寵愛在一身。他不單改造了阿仙奴,也改變了英國球壇,為足球帶來優雅和美好。

在雲加登陸英國及入主高貝利球場前,英國球壇以「高Q大腳」、講求身體對抗、作風勇猛的「鐵漢足球」當道。至於阿仙奴,則由格拉咸帶領,更加不求美感但求實用,重視防守,建構了著名及讓對手聞之而色變的「後防四虎」體系,甚至發展出頑固及令人皺眉以至痛恨的「1:0主義」,並以此與列強爭雄。當時球隊靈魂人物就是後防中堅鐵漢阿當斯,踢法可想而知。

因為比賽枯燥乏味,他們索性把高貝利和阿仙奴譏諷為「library」。雖然在格拉咸帶領的9年,阿仙奴曾兩奪聯賽錦標,但它卻絕對不是一支讓球迷愛戴、讓外間和對手敬重的球隊。

他改變了阿仙奴 也改變了英超

1995年格拉咸因醜聞下台,經歷一年過渡後,雲加在1996年走馬上任。當時這個法國人與其他英國球隊救練有着十分不同的profile,例如費格遜沒有上過大學,甚至連中學也沒有讀完,相反雲加不單在大學念了一個工程學位,之後還多拿了一個經濟碩士學位。除此之外,雲加不單在法甲成名,帶領過摩納哥奪標,更遠走日本帶領過名古屋八鯨取得聯賽亞軍,所以可說見過世面。與當時英超絕大多數的「土炮」領隊,眼界和見識不可同日而語。

雲加是英超史上第二位歐陸教練,第一位是比他早5個月登陸英超的荷蘭「球王」古烈治;如果再計世界其他地方,那麼還有多一位,那就是早他3年執教的阿根廷球星阿迪尼斯。但後兩者都是以作為球星的威望來加盟和執教球隊,且都沒有站穩陣腳,任教時間不長。

相反雲加卻着眼更長線和更具野心,他銳意改造「高Q大腳」、講求身體對抗、作風勇猛、戰術和踢法單調的傳統英式足球,引入更多地上進攻,球員更多地控球在腳,進攻也更講求組織。對方後防線常常被阿仙奴中前場球員短傳滲入「搓散」,踢法變得陰柔。

曾是有口皆碑獨具慧眼的伯樂

結果阿仙奴瞬間煥然一新判若兩隊,球迷都被新的如行雲流水般的進攻所懾服。大家甚至驚歎只有阿仙奴才可以踢出如此優美足球,阿仙奴從此再不是「library」。更何况優美不等於不實用,雲加於加盟的第二季便為球隊奪得聯賽錦標,震動英國球壇。

當然,複雜的歐陸踢法及如行雲流水般的進攻,短期間難以由英國本土球員實現。於是雲加便為球隊陸續引入歐陸球員,如奧華馬斯、比堤、安歷卡、韋拉、亨利、龍格堡、皮利斯等。尤其讓人佩服的是他獨具慧眼,引入這些球員時很多尚且十分年輕,仍未大紅大紫,因此價格都十分低廉,結果卻給他打造成天王巨星,經典例子包括韋拉、亨利、法比加斯等。因此雲加曾是有口皆碑的伯樂,且精打細算。

阿仙奴在雲加帶領下成了一個「聯合國」,球員不單來自法國、荷蘭等歐陸國家,也來自非洲,甚至試過上陣的11個球員中連一個英國人都沒有。雖然身處英超,但卻立足歐陸以至世界。亨利也成了雲加治下阿仙奴全盛時期的靈魂人物,比起球隊昔日的靈魂人物阿當斯,阿仙奴精神和面貌上的改變不言而喻。

雲加食譜

博學多聞、人稱「教授」的雲加甫登陸英超後,便運用其豐富知識,不單改變球隊的單調踢法和戰術,甚至亦改造了當時落伍的英國球會管理,例如引入數據分析,又改革球員飲食。雲加引入了均衡飲食和營養食譜這些概念和做法,他的名言就是「如果你老是吃豬肉,你踢波也會踢得像一頭豬」。雲加在日本執教時有機會認識到日本球員的健康飲食習慣和學問,他們吃的多是蔬菜、大米和魚肉,結合他自己積累的營養學知識,遂發展出所謂「雲加食譜」。

在「雲加食譜」中,英式傳統食物如炸魚、薯條、煙肉、豬肉、布甸、朱古力、零食等都列入黑名單前列。而他大力推薦的卻是蒸魚、通心粉、水煮雞肉、蔬菜沙律和清水等。

除了飲食外,他又監督球員改掉傳統英國球員酗酒和夜生活的不良習慣。這些現代化管理都讓球員在高強度和高密度的比賽下,仍能恢復理想體能狀况,整個球季保持良好體能和狀態。

今天大家對以上種種都習以為常,但在1990年代的英超,用外國球員是媚外;踢波傳來傳去是「姿整」;講數據是「阿茂整餅」;不准球員吃炸魚薯條喝啤酒更是專橫家長。大家或許覺得這樣的1990年代簡直是一個足球的蠻荒年代,但不錯,就是雲加改變了那個蠻荒年代。

被英超「金元足球」淘汰

只可惜萬物有時,雲加和阿仙奴亦逃不過「花無百日紅」的宿命。正如前述,當阿巴莫域治入主車路士,英超從此進入「金元足球」的新時代,後來「中東油元」亦入主曼城。這些富豪球會可以一擲千金購買球星,「有買錯冇放過」,以本傷人。

但偏偏雲加卻不屑跟其他富豪球會一般瘋狂。大家或許還記得,雲加讀大學時念的是工程和經濟,特別懂計數。他的專業訓練反過來成了他的心理包袱,讓他仍然勉力堅持精打細算、量入為出的那套球會經營之道,甚至說過阿仙奴行的是共產主義,不希望旗下球員待遇相差太遠,更不會「不惜工本」搶奪球星。

不錯,昔日他曾獨具慧眼低價買入「平靚正」年輕未成名球星而名噪一時;但今天在富豪球會紛紛以本傷人、「有買錯冇放過」的情况下,連各國十五六歲的小將也高價掃掠一空,他連這丁點空間都再沒有。因此阿仙奴近年苦於無法吸引具實力的球星加盟,甚至人才不斷流失,實力漸被列強甩開,成績也江河日下。

淪為「佛系」雲加的無奈

只可惜雲加這番堅持卻不被球迷欣賞或諒解,近年他甚至被本地球迷譏諷為「佛系」雲加,說他「不挖角、不添兵、不爭標,時候到了,就續一續約」。况且歐陸領隊也再非只得雲加一個,由摩連奴、賓尼迪斯、哥迪奧拿、高普、干地等陸續登陸英超,雲加在眼光和見識上也再無優勢,甚至已因年紀漸大而落伍,沒有後起之秀在戰術上的靈活多變。

別矣,雲加!我和很多球迷都會懷念你,不單止因為你是阿仙奴史上最偉大領隊,更因為你是一個時至今日仍堅持「大丈夫有所為有所不為」的領隊。只可惜在今天,有所堅持的人通常都不會有好收場。英國球圈如是,香港政圈也如是。


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In China’s embrace, Hong Kong people face a stark choice: money or freedoms

CommentInsight & Opinion
2018-04-19
Michael Chugani says with the mainland drawing Hong Kong closer every day, Hongkongers who seize the huge economic opportunities on offer must realise they may also have to give up personal freedoms

We know mainland China is intent on drawing Hong Kong closer to it, but has that process accelerated? I asked myself this after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor used Mandarin at a national security forum last Sunday. Maybe she shunned Cantonese in deference to Beijing’s liaison office boss Wang Zhimin. But it jolted me into realising we need to wake up and smell the change.

A local think tank organised the forum. It was held in Hong Kong. Shouldn’t Lam have chosen the dialect of Hongkongers even though Wang understandably used Mandarin? But we’re now living in a Hong Kong very different from that of just a year ago. And you can bet next year’s Hong Kong will be even less recognisable.

The sell-by date of saying you don’t want Hong Kong to be just another Chinese city has long passed. We’re already halfway there. You’re living in la-la land if you believe “one country, two systems” and 2047 were meant as buffers.

Beijing never intended Hong Kong to be a part of China in name only, letting it retain all the trappings of a British colony. Sculpting the city to fit into the national character was always part of its plan. The question was at what pace.

It was gradual and unobtrusive at first. But then came the Occupy uprising, localism, the independence movement, booing of the national anthem, and Benny Tai Yiu-ting’s thoughtless talk in Taiwan of independence. Yes, it was free speech and I will defend his right to it, though not necessarily to the death. But he exercised it in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nothing personal, since he’s a friend, but I really think Tai can do us all a favour by quitting his university law professor job and agitate for political change as an ordinary citizen. His folly further convinced Beijing it needed to hasten the pace of morphing Hong Kong into a shape that is less distinguishable from mainland China. We now need to think of mainland China as a giant magnet drawing us unstoppably closer.

Expect our officials to use Mandarin instead of Cantonese whenever mainland officials attend local functions. We must love the country and party. We must stand for the national anthem. Mainland officials no longer have any qualms about pressing the government to enact national security legislation. New limits have been drawn on who qualifies as a Legislative Council candidate.

You can welcome the magnet absorbing us as a new frontier of opportunities or fear it as a black hole. My part-time local domestic helper told me just months ago that her university-aged daughter wanted to stake her future in democratic Taiwan rather than in a city being gradually swallowed by a communist state.

But, last week, she told me her daughter is now considering staking her future in the promised economic gold mine of the Greater Bay Area. From seeking democratic sanctuary to risking personal freedoms for economic opportunity – that’s the Sophie’s Choice Hongkongers now face.

We never had to make that choice before. We took for granted that economic opportunity was hitched to the personal freedoms we grew up with. But economic opportunity in Hong Kong is now a myth. It exists only for our tycoons.

If you’re young, want to be rich, afford a flat, or simply land a job with a mobility ladder, get out of Hong Kong. Consider mainland China. Its lures are plentiful but the price is high. You must pay by giving up Facebook, YouTube, and free political speech. You must stand for the national anthem and love the party.

As the magnet draws us ever closer, the differences between us and the mainland will narrow anyway. The Sophie’s Choice will then be to stay and pick the abundance of low-hanging fruit in a nation hurtling towards being the world’s largest economy, or flee to a democratic haven that may not offer everything else you want.

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong journalist and TV show host